Source: Sherman Publications

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Firefighters favor higher millage rate

by Mary Keck

May 09, 2012

If Independence Township Fire Department doesn't get more funding, "we're going to be in trouble," said Acting Chief Mitch Petterson.

They're down one person per shift and have lost $1 million in revenue over the past four years, Petterson explained.

Petterson and Captain Gary Sharp presented four millage options to Independence Township Board, May 1.

The first was a renewal of the current mill level at 3.1688.

The second option presented was an increase of 0.2 mills, which would allow the department to cover their capital needs, but not add personnel.

Option three is a 0.5 mill increase, which would address the department's need for new equipment and allow them to add some staff.

The fourth option, a 0.59 mill increase, would enable the department to hire three people, partially restore their fire prevention division, and cover their capital needs, which means they would have a third ambulance, he said.

Petterson favors option three or four.

"We're asking because we want to continue operating the fire department," he said. "This is a pretty tough economic time for us to ask anybody for anything, but we've got to do something."

Township Board will consider the mill rate and ballot language at the next township meeting, May 15 at 7:30pm at Township Hall.

Interested citizens can locate the Fire Department's presentation on www.twp.independence.mi.us.

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Fire Chief Ronk wasn't at the public hearing on the potential mill increase because he's recuperating from the bypass surgery he underwent on April 20.

Ronk won't be at the station for a minimum of six weeks and maybe more, said Petterson, but "he's recovering as expected."

Both Petterson and Sharp are stepping up to help while Ronk's on the mend, but they're "making an effort to keep him informed" about the goings on at the station, said Petterson.

Citizens have been sending cards and well wishes to the main station, which have been passed along to the chief who is healing at home.

Although serving as chief wasn't what Petterson expected, he said he is "more than happy to help get the township through until the chief is back."

He described taking on the role as a "natural transition" because he had worked closely with Ronk as captain.

Petterson admitted, "it's tough" because Ronk was leading up "multiple projects that were important," including the fire millage renewal and possible increase currently before the board of trustees.